Coal Tattoo

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger this morning told defense lawyers for Don Blankenship that they cannot show jurors a video of an August 2009 meeting where Massey Energy kicked off a new safety program.

Berger, announcing her ruling before bringing the jury into the courtroom, said the video was not admissible evidence in the case against Blankenship.

“It’s riddled with statements of opinion and hearsay that are inadmissible” Berger said. “There is a lot of what I would generally call puffery.”

Defense lawyers have touted the meeting held at Scott High School as an example of Massey’s efforts to implement a new “hazard elimination program” to reduce safety violations.

Blankenship did not attend the meeting because he had recently had gall bladder surgery, defense lawyers said.

Berger said the video shows the meeting starting with a prayer and with one speaker making analogies between the Bible and government safety rules. State rules were the little testament and federal rules the big testament, the speaker said, according to the judge.

Berger said the video included a scene where Massey chief operating officer Chris Adkins is holding one young male child with another child is standing next to him.

“This is what its all about,” Adkins says in the video, according to the judge.

Defense lawyers had argued the video showed the sorts of instructions about following safety rules that Massey officials were giving to employees. But the judge said, “There is much more in this video than directives.”

Defense lawyer Eric Delinsky told Berger that the defense might want to submit a new version of the video with the inadmissible portions taken out.

The judge responded, “I don’t know how you’re going to do that. As I’ve indicated it’s riddled with hearsay and opinion and puffery.”

After Berger announced her ruling the jury was brought in and defense lawyer Bill Taylor continued his cross-examination of former Performance Coal Co. President Chris Blanchard as the trial began its 15th day of testimony.